Turkish Rug Buying Guide

"Turkish rug buying experience is fun, educational and memorable!"

'Turkish rug' will be the two words most mentioned as your Mediterranean cruise ship approaches Kusadasi harbour.

Besides that, everyone on the ship will be talking about going on an Ephesus shore excursionwhether it's the one booked through the cruise line or the one booked online.

turkish rug image, turkish rug photo, turkish rug pictureShare Turkish rug tips with fellow cruisers

Visiting this part of the world will, for many of you, be a once in a  lifetime opportunity to bring home an authentic handwoven turkish carpet, and should not be missed.

Before my first ever visit to Kusadasi, Turkey, I never thought I would be buying three rugs myself. And spending thousands of $$$ at the age of 29. I thought they were for old grannies. But getting to know more about these beautiful handmade pieces of art made me change my mind.

As I am typing this, my feet are resting on my most prized possession: an intricate wool handwoven rug made in a combination of two techinques: hand knots and kilim weave.

You get a little peek into my home so I can show you my favourite rugs...

turkish handwoven rug image, turkish handwoven rug photo, turkish handwoven rug pictureJust one of the rugs I couldn't resist during my visits to Turkey!

And here's another one I fell in love with: this one is made in the kilim or flatweave technique. I love the intensity of its colours, the little turquoises and purple details that pop out...

turkish kilim image, turkish kilim picture, turkish kilim photoHow different this little corner would be without this kilim rug. Rugs are a great way to make a quick makeover of your room!

I cannot describe the joy i feel every time I look at these two rugs.

What I really hope is that you get your own Turkish rug that makes your heart jump with joy. 

But first, let me teach you what's so special about them and about the best way to get your own rug in Kusadasi Turkey.


How are Turkish rugs made?

Genuine rugs are made by hand. Knot by knot. It is usually ladies who are more patient and have more nimble fingers neede to do this job.

The most important tool that helps them to make carpets is a loom, a frame which consists of two horizontal beams that hold up warps, vertical strings of either wool or silk, depending on what is the foundation or the sceleton of the carpet.

The weavers then wrap wool or silk around the warps and tie knots to secure them.

When doing it, they closely follow the design of the rug to make sure each knot (of differently coloured wool or silk) is in the right spot.

As you can imagine, sitting by the loom for hours, being highly focused not to mess up the knots is hard work which takes us to the next topic...why are turkish rugs so expensive?


Why are Turkish rugs so expensive?

First of all, they are made in the technique of a double knot, as opposed to the other Oriental rugs which are made using the single knot technique.

This technique takes more time but makes these rugs more durable, longer living and therefore generally more valuable too.

Moreover, the bigger the knot density or the number of knots in a square centimetre (KPSC) or inch (KPSI) there is, the bigger the quality of the rug and consequently, the price.

Very good quality of rugs starts with >330 knots per square inch.

Now draw a square inch on a piece of paper. Try making 330 dots with a pencil in it. Try 1200. Try 4,360 dots! That's how many knots there are in the famous Hereke rugs in a square inch. How long would it take you to make 4,360 knots by hand?

1200 knots in an hour is about a maximum number of knots a skillful weaver can make in an inch.

Now think of the size of a rug you would like to buy. How many hours would it take a very skilled weaver to make it?

Additionally, how long does it take to dye the wool in natural colours and coil it

What about silk? How long does it take to raise a worm? Extract the thread, dye it, spin it?

Turkish rug is not something that can be made back home where you live...most people there would not work for so long for so little money! 

Now, that I've put things into perspective for you, rugs don't seem so expensive any more, right?


Are Turkish rugs valuable?

They are very valuable and make a very good investment - an authentic, hand-made Turkish rug ages well and with use the knots tighten even more, therefore you'll find that the design becomes sharper and more beautiful.

While holding rug and carpet seminars for our passengers onboard, some people used to snark at rugs we showed them and said: 'I can get a rug like that for $50 at Wallmart'.

That made me ralise how deeply they misunderstood the idea of these artecrafts. They couldn't discern something made in one hour by a machine and something that was being made for months, by hand, by natural materials.

They couldn't discern an object you throw away once it's worn out and an object you leave to your children as heirloom, because it's a classic that will look good even in 300 or 500 years.

Most of the Turkihs rugs are made out of natural materials and are dyed with natural colors. You can read more about it in our article Turkish Oriental Rugs - Colors and Motifs. 

What does that do for the value of your rug? It makes it age well! Nautral colours will fade gracefully and evenly all over the surface of the rug.

Making a Turkish rug is a dying art - young people in Turkey are more into IT, entrepreneurship and business now, not interested in sitting at the loom for hours every day. This adds to the scarcity of these beautiful items and adds to their value.


How much should I pay for a Turkish rug?

There are many factors that will determine your rug's price. My guests on cruise ships used to ask me: 'So, how much can I expect to pay for a 8'x10' rug?'

They weren't very happy when I answered with more questions:

  • What material rug would you like to buy? Silk? Wool? Cotton?
  • What technique do you like? Flat weaves or kilims with ethnic, geometrical motifs? Or knotted rugs with more intricate decorations?
  • Where would you like to place your rug? On the floor or on the wall, as a decoration?
  • Are you looking to buy a rug as an investment with as many knots in a square inch your wallet can handle, or you don't mind how many knots there are as long as the rug is nice and warm under your feet?
  • Do you insist on natural colours or you don't mind synthetic ones?

These are just some of the factors that will determine how much you will pay for your rug.


How do I identify a real Turkish rug?

People often ask me: so, how do I know it's Turkish? 

First of all, if you are visiting one of the Turkish cruise ports like Kusadasi or Istanbul, you can be pretty sure it's in their interest to sell you a rug made in their country or their people, not Persian.

But just as a matter of interest here's two most important factores to discern a Turkish from a Persian rug:

1. There is a difference in the weaving technique.

As I have already mentioned, a Turkish rug is woven in the double knot technique, as opposed to the single knot or Persian knot technique.

This is something that is not visible to the untrained eye but the Turkish say it adds to the value of their rugs. Namely, a double knot is stronger than a single one.

2. There is a difference in motifs: Persian rugs will have more rounded and flowery motifs, usually with a medallion in the centre.

Turkish rugs will have more ethnic and geometrical motifs with symbolic meaning behind them.



Where can I buy a rug in Turkey?

Now, maybe you have already heard about what a high-pressure experience buying a rug can be...or maybe you're not really sure why you should get one.

It's true. Going out into bazaars in Kusadasi and Istanbul can get very hectic if you do it by yourself.

What I suggest, if you are interesting in seeing a rug demo or buying a rug, is to be on one of the tours or shore excursions.

That way the merchants will not be focused on you solely and you will have your tour guide to watch your back or answer any questions you may have. 

turkish rug presentation image, turkish rug presentation picture, turkish rug presentation photoFun and informative Turkish rug presentation

The good thing of taking one of the Daily Ephesus tours is that they will most usually include a free rug demonstration at the very end.

You will be taken either to one of the rug-making villages around Kusadasi or to one of the stores in Kusadasi shopping area.

Not interested in seeing Ephesus? All you want is to spend the day shopping for a rug? No problem, go straight to this tour:

You wish to combine sightseeing but still make sure you have enough time for shopping? Here's a shore excursion that combines both:

The good thing about this is that, having been organised this way, the store would know when to expect customers and would have chosen the most knowledgeable presenter to introduce you to this ancient art that the Turkish people are so proud of.


What to expect from a rug demonstration?

The whole demonstration experience is very educational...you would have a chance to see a lady actually making a rug on the loom right before your eyes, how silk is made from silk cocoons, how the wool is dyed with natural products and learn why silk rugs are called "magic rugs".

You can take a little peak into a rug demonstration right here, to know what to expect...

At the demonstration you will get to admire either the gigantic oversized rugs that took years to weave or the miniature ones that are as fine as if painted by a thin paint-brush.

silk rugs photos, silk rug image, silk rug pictureHand woven carpet. So fine it looks like someone painted it with a very fine brush.

Should I even go to the rug demo?

Of course you should!

Having been part of my job, I have experienced at least a couple dozen of demonstrations throughout the years and always learnt something new.

I never got tired of it.

For some of the cruise guests, sometimes it was literally a jaw-dropping experience. They loved it!

One good thing about visiting one of the rug demonstrations is it will give you a chance to cool down in a relaxed and air-conditioned atmosphere, before you carry on with your Kusadasi shopping spree.

Another thing is, you will have a chance to experience one of the Turkish customs that Turkish people are so proud of...their hostpitality!

Most of the stores will treat cruise guests with a free drink: you will have a chance to taste that famous Turkish apple tea, real Turkish coffee or Raki, the famous liquorish-tasting spirit.

turkish rug demonstration image, turkish rug demonstration picture, turkish rug demonstration photoCruise passengers enjoying the rug demo

They often serve a little snack, too, something like a little cottage cheese and herbs pastry.

While you enjoy your drinks and your food, the presenter will quickly take your through the history of rug making as well as explain what makes them so different from rugs made in other parts of the world.

You will also learn about the Turkish Oriental Rugs colours and motifs and Turkish Oriental rugs materials used in rug making, as well as what is the difference between Turkish pile rugs and Turkish kilims.

At the beginning of every rug demostration everyone is pretty shy, but with time you will see more and more people taking their shoes off and walking over and touching dozens of rugs that will be unrolled right in front of your feet.

So go ahead and join in, feel the warmth of the wool and softness of the silk. I bet you, you never ever had something as soft under your feet!

Now, once the demonstration is finished you have a choice of either leaving the premisses and carrying on your own way around Kusadasi, or staying in the store choosing your own Turkish rug to take home, which most people will do. As it makes the best Turkish souvenir. Period.

In that case, you will be given your own sales assistant that will take care of you and possibly take you into your own viewing room.

turkish rug shopping image, turkish rug shopping picture, turkish rug shopping photoThey keep bringing rug after rug...

Here, you will have a chance to have even more beautiful rugs unrolled under your feet...just make sure you let them know what your size, material and color preferences are, as well as what your budget roughly is.

Now, if you're still not sure if you're in the market for a rug, here's a few reasons why most cruise guests will not miss out on this opportunity:

  • This is one of the rare opportunities for you to take home something that has been hand made in the country of your visit..they have not been made in a factory just the other day!

Some other helpful tips before I get my Turkish rug?

If you've decided to go for it and get your own Turkish rug, keep these tips in mind:

  • Turkish Oriental rugs are works of art therefore - duty exempt for US citizens! You will not pay an extra dime to take it back home!
  • Shipping to your door is typically included in the final price.
  • Take your room measurements before you head for a cruise
  • Have your credit cards on you as soon as you leave the ship in the morning to go to your Ephesus shore excursion.
  • Bargain for your rug! Never take the first price offered.
  • Ask for the value added tax to be taken off the price immeditely, so you don't have to go through the process of having your papers stamped by customs and sending them back to the merchant for the tax refund.
  • Ask the merchant how many knots there are per square inch. Better quality rugs start at about 250 knots per sq inch.
  • When shown different rugs, turn them over to see how detailed the picture is on the back...it will give you an idea of which rug has more knots in a square inch amd is therefore more valuable.

IMPORTANT:

  • Take a photo of your rug before they put it away to be shipped.
  • Sign the back of your rug so you make sure you'll be getting the one you chose and paid for.

If you are not on one of the cruise line shore excursions yet, the best thing to get to one of the rug demonstrations is to book one of the daily Ephesus tours or get on a shopping tour. You can always arrange to have the rug demonstration after your Ephesus sightseeing.

Enjoy your Turkish rug buying!